NewsWho is Kamala Harris? And why her Indian roots...

Who is Kamala Harris? And why her Indian roots matter?


Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Bidden on Tuesday chose Senator Kamala Harris as his choice for vice president, making Harris the first black woman and the first woman with Indian roots to run for a major US presidential party.

“I need someone alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person,” Biden wrote in an email announcement to his supporters, CNBC reports. Biden also tweeted the announcement where he hailed Kamala as “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.”

Biden has been under pressure to elect a woman of color for his running mate as America reels from a major Black Lives Matter movement that swept the country in May following the racial murder of George Floyd.

“Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals,” Harris wrote on Twitter.

Who is Kamala Harris?

Harris, who has Indian roots becomes the first woman of color to be nominated for the major national position which could very well make her one of the very few Black candidates for the post.

Kamala Devi Harris, as her full name goes was born in the US to a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother on October 20, 1964.

Harris’ mother late Shyamala Gopalan, was born in the South Indian state of Chennai went to the US to attend a doctorial program in the UC Berkel.

Father Donald Harris, immigrated from British Jamaica to the US to pursue economics in the same school as Gopalan. Mr. Harris is an emeritus professor at Stafford University.

As a double major graduate with Political science and Economics from Howard University of Washington, Harris’ career began as a mailroom clerk to the then-Senator Alan Cranston.

Kamala’s first mainstream profession since she acquired her Doctor of Law degree began in 1990 after she was hired as the Deputy District attorney in Alameda County, California, where she shot up to critical acclaim for her professional abilities.

Kamala harris is also the second woman of colour in the US history to serve the Senate.

Why is she so significant?

Joe Bidden choosing Harris as his White House partner is not only a breakthrough for the Black and Asian-American community in the US, but as CNN noted it is a major counter-narrative to the current President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

There is no doubt about how race has been a contentious factor in American politics. Communities of color and any other non-white, non-caucasian groups have time and again voiced the subtle to explicit layers of structural oppression and discrimination in the US, that permeates virtually all levels.

Harris’ running for the vice president also comes at a time when the ashes of the George Floyd Movement still lurks in the air. #WinWithBlackWomen started to appear on social media, with politicians, community members, and Hollywood celebs stopping their congratulations to Harris.

Former US President Barrack Obama wrote: “I’ve known Senator Kamala Harris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”

Actor Priyanka Chopra congratulated Harris on Instagram by saying her election is “a historical, transformational, and proud moment for all women. All women of color, all Black women, and all South Asian women.”

CNBC noted Biden’s choice for vice president is not only historically and culturally significant but is also strategically viable given black women in America has played huge roles in past elections.

According to a Washington Post report, black women in the US, despite making a tiny fraction of the population at 7%, had proactively voted more than any other racial group – voting 60% or above in the past five presidential nominations.

Mother taught us to share the pride of our culture: Kamala Harris

In an interview with Aziz Haniffa, Editor in Chief of the now shuttered community newspaper called India Abroad, Harris spoke how his Indian roots shaped her mind in politics.

In the interview from 2009, now re-published by CNN, Haniffa asked Kamala Harris what did her mother instill in terms of culture and heritage.

Responding, Kamala said: “My mother was very proud of her Indian heritage and taught us, me and my sister Maya, to share in the pride about our culture.”

In pic: Kamala Harris with former US President Barack Obama and Wife Michelle Obama
(Image courtesy of
via twitter) Who is Kamala Harris? And why her Indian roots matter?

She went on to share how she and her family would visit India sometimes to her mother’s maternal home in Madras, now Chennai, and how her maternal grandfather, whom she calls ‘one of the most influential people in my life’ helped shape her political views.

Kamala’s grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, held a post in India that was equivalent to Secretory of State osition in the US.

“My grandfather was one of the original Independence fighters in India, and some of my fondest memories from childhood were walking along the beach with him after he retired and lived in Besant Nagar, in what was then called Madras,” Kamala told in the interview.

She shred, her grandfather would take her to a walk on the ebach every morning with his buddies who were all retired government officials. They’d discuss politics and talk about corruption and justice.

“They would laugh and voice opinions and argue, and those conversations, even more than their actions, had such a strong influence on me in terms in terms of learning to be responsible, to be honest, and to have integrity,” Harris said.

“When we think about it, India is the oldest democracy in the world — so that is part of my background, and without question has had a great deal of influence on what I do today and who I am,” Kamala was quoted as saying.

(Cover image courtesy of Priyanka Chopra via Instagram)


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